Continent of Dreams

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Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:18 pm

Part of a series of a Praetonian travel magazine.

Arriving, the airport has one sign only - WELCOME TO NEW SENLAND. New Senlanders think that New Senland is the best place on earth and once this is agreed go about arguing which part of New Senland is the best place on earth. It was of course, not always the utopia they say it is. When the first settlers arrived at Landing they bought from the Prince of Mogami a plot of land that he thought good only for mosquito nests.

One hundred years later, settlements had popped up all across the Oryontic seaboard. Their names bore their heritage: New Haversham, New Kingston, Gannet Cross, Moncktown, Yorktown, New Perth, Bradford, New Ripon. The inhabitants were mostly Sennish, with the odd Cockay or Quiberonnaise. Thus they called their new home New Senland, and damned any natives who said otherwise.

Now even a Hindu New Senlander will make fun of a white Praetannic Sennish man. New Senland, he will say, is far, far better than Old Senland. For a start, it's cleaner. The New Senlander towns were built on the town corporation system, perhaps the first joint stock company in the world, in which common land like streets and sewers were owned by a corporation which any resident could buy shares in. Over time these town and city corporations built, planned, and administered cities like giant private concerns. Elsewhere in Questers this system has corrupt attributes: in New Senland it works without flaw.

Thus, most of the cities look the same. Their streets are old and narrow, and they hold heat too well. They are green and brown and moss comes up through the cracks in the right places. Street life is lively, loud, civilised. Eat chappatis dipped in condensed milk, or a New Senland classic - heaped mutton roghan ghosht, covered in herbs, eaten on the move in a pathetic polystyrene box. Take bright morning tea in hot-to-the touch metal pots. If coffee is your thing then here it is cooked thick and strong and by the gallon - it's not clear if New Senlanders ever really stop moving or working. Drink your beer in any of the hundred tiny street bars that pop up as darkness falls. Make a friend, and speak your mind: it does not matter, because the next day, everything is always forgotten. The chairs will be plastic - New Senlanders spend nothing on luxury and invest every dollar they ever see. An old joke says that a New Senlander pinches a penny from a friend. It's not for me, he justifies. It's for my bank.

Fortifications line the waterfront, bristling ancient cannon, looking over massive docks - New Senland became the wealthiest part of Questers from selling rubber to the home islands - and further up the coastline lie the ruins of an ancient dharmatic pantheon, barraged by timeless Oryontic waves. Drive up the quiet coasts and hear only the greetings of Oryontic seabirds and hear the prayers of the priests of the last millenia echo in your ears. Any old pillar about to fall to the sea might be four thousand years old. The history of this land is kept by the pride (or hubris) of its people and the indefatigable wealth of its old families. There are two big boasts in New Senland - I was here first, and I am a contributor to the Historical Society.

Syndicalism came here four years ago, but it didn't stay. Some New Senlanders barricaded themselves in their old forts and refused to come out. North Point warships resupplied them for seven months. Others simply shrugged. They ignored the Syndicalist militia and went about their old business. When the Old Senlanders came in their mighty grey warships and vomited tanks and guns and helicopters across this land, the New Senlanders were not grateful. You're late, they said. And in New Senland, that's a cardinal sin. The only thing worse than being late is not being from New Senland.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:35 pm

To fly over the Orissan highlands, you would think all the tea in the world is grown there. It probably is, but nobody in the Orissaland drinks it. They drink coke out of glass bottles with tiny little straws. Then they get three cents back for recycling it. The poor come round to you on your beach chair and ask if you would ever so kindly give them your glass bottle. You won't want to say no.

Orissans are a breed apart. This is the only part of the Commonwealth where Whites don't eat beef. It's the only part of the Commonwealth where football is barely played, and beach volleyball is everywhere played. Go on a hike in the highlands and see the tea plantations and catch a coolie lugging a bag of tea from one hill to the next, muscles twitching and glistened in sweat, and ask him what he's thinking about. Sahib, he'll say, on Friday eve I'll take a bus to the coast and lounge on the beach until morning Monday. The coolies stay in the hills all week and there they've brought up sand to play beach volleyball at the top of a hill. Play with them. Learn their stories. Drink the leaves they haul.

Orissans are great outdoorsmen. Hunters and hikers, truck and quadbike drivers, sailors and sportsmen. They build their own houses. Every year a parade runs the length of the Orissan axackal coast, bikers taking their motorcycles on long journeys, stopping at each town for fanfare and for cokes in glass bottles. Watch them, join them. Wave at the side of the road if your bike breaks and let these veterans stop and help you and lose a race in doing so. It will be hard to make them take your thanks, but do it anyway. If Karma is true anywhere, it's true here.

Of course, not all Orissans live in the countryside.

The towns in Orissaland are flat affairs, no highrises, no minarets. Dusty, friendly, hot - wear sandals. Each city, town, or village is centred around a cenotapth, often the tallest building, granite imported from the home islands, decked in flowers. There are buried the suffering memories. The Great War inflicted powerful, gouging wounds on Orissan society. Whole battalions of Orissans walked into the smoke and did not walk out. Fully one tenth of Orissa's men did not come back from the war. The qualities that make Orissans great outdoorsmen made them willing soldiers. They heard the call, and they went: plantation managers, tea pickers, coolies, packers, and dockers all put down tools, picked up rifle, pike and sabre, and went to die in far away southern Questers or upon Yehudi plains.

The war would change the Orissaland forever. The strain of Hinduism that renounces violence grew and grew until it burst and carried every person in this land with it. Now, Orissans are a peaceful people. They live to live. Tourists come from all the world to this place: to dive in Weston Sound, to laze under palm trees, to drink too much coconut liquor and to cure the hangovers with mountains of Orissan pancakes, they come for Orissa's many music festivals and for the Party Heard Round The World, for fun, for love, for life. True Orissans are the least warlike people in this great Commonwealth. Don't test their hospitality: others, less kind, less peaceful, will punish you for it, and harshly.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:08 pm

Jesselton: city of a thousand quarters, divided by the mighty Mogami river, holy place for Hindus, the greatest floodplain on the continent, largest city in the Commonwealth. There are two hundred and eleven ways to enter Jesselton, but the best is through the Main Gate. There you can stand at the top, right where General Jessel stood when he saw Amin Arjun on his war elephant, ready to hurl a mighy host toward the city he had been ordered to hold. Hold, he did, and when his relief came and crushed Arjun in a giant pincer attack, Anga was renamed Jesselton in his honour.

Today, people from every clime and country have made Jesselton their home. There's a quarter here for every minority imaginable. They form townships, surrounded by other townships, and with no space to build out, they build up. You can pass through the Kehmanik quarter to the Sharfic quarter by a hastily made wooden bridge between apartment blocks, three stories up, as the road beneath is too busy to pass. Everything in Jesselton is busy, so busy that every map is out of date the moment it's published. Entire shop lots disappear into apartments, and shift down the street and re-appear, as if time and space had contorted around them. The boundaries of ethnic law waver daily, but people have learned to live together here. They buy up space together, make their own rules, sign their own treaties with each other. It's no surprise, for Jesselton is the most densely populated city in the world - and some say it has the most pistols per hundred men.

Not all of Jesselton is dominated by ethnic enclaves. The Old Town, which people sometimetimes still call Anga, is dominated by the Jesselton town corporation, the Jesselton Company. It too owns the rail and the large roads that break this town up, and it holds regular meetings between all parties of the city, to keep the public peace. A Sharfic merchant has fallen out with a customer from the Dumani minority. They mean to duel one another, but all present fight to restrain them: since both drew their pistols but were held back by others, there was still honour in the contest. They shake hands. Jesseltonians, unlike other Questarians, are not litigious. A man might beat another on the street for a perceived slight, but shake his hand the next minute, and throw gold dollar bills at him in order to cover his expenses. Jesseltonians always say it this way: where there's no dishonour, there's no misdeed.

Remember, in this city, a handshake is your word of honour. The people here consider it as a signature to contract. They have no qualms making you an outlaw for breaking your word. Jesseltonians look out for each other and they take their hue and cry rules seriously. A Praetannic woman toured Jesselton. She complained that whenever she went out at night and was alone on the street, there was always a person watching her from a window. No wonder, a Jesseltonian friend told her, that you were never once attacked, harrassed, or interrupted. The whole city was your sentinel.

Jesseltonians are businessmen first if nothing else, but they know that nobody ever made much gold out of lawlessness. They would be right: Jesselton is a safe city, for those who follow its rules. Successive waves of migrants have won a life in this town only where they have learned to respect the way that others live. When you come here, you must hire a guide, because you will never know whether you have violated some local ordinance; an unassuming street temple patrolled by a religious sect, a petty landowner's retentive nature, or maybe just the town corporation's bailiffs, who will cane a man for spitting gum on the street. Your guide will allow you to negotiate the complex code of laws and customs that somehow, in spite of it all, work to make this city a great and mostly peaceful metropolis.

In Jesselton, you can buy, eat, and drink whatever you want. There are monuments to men of every race for every war, there are ancient Hindu temples and tombs, there are dense markets, wet and dry, with smells you can never explain. But the best thing is simply to walk from one side to the other and watch the world change around you.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Wed May 16, 2018 5:51 pm

2009

This year, New Ripon has once again won the title of Greatest of New Senland. The city, which has won the award six times this decade, has a total population of approximately 177,000 souls and a square area of around 23 miles, making it one of the most densely populated cities in New Senland. Its Town Corporation has never been fiscally insolvent, and rents remain average relative to income in the region. Violence is low, and New Ripon is the safest town in the northeast; this year recorded only one murders, 28 rapes, and only 1,825 assaults against the person, which the Corporation puts down to a newly introduced system to control the entry of squatters from the town's surroundings. With regards these people, New Riponers also ranked as the most generous; a new program charitably apprenticing promising young squatter children has been described as an outright success.

Relations between the tenants and their neighbours fell to an absolute low two years ago, after the abduction and violation of twin children by squatters: it was only when the burghers of New Ripon threatened to shell the forty-mile square squat settlement with heavy artillery that the perpetrators were handed over. New Ripon was given big points for its willingness to forgive the issue; prominent socialites erected a new water tower in the squat just four weeks ago, as a sign of good relations.

The city saw many exciting social events in the past year. There was a home-cooking festival and competition, with more than a hundred and eighty families taking part in a bustling Blossom Street event that ran for four days and four nights. Mrs Singh of Bridge Street won the competition with her vegetable pakoras, which the judges declared to be the finest pakoras within ten thousand miles. Other events included a popular communal gardening week and a homecoming gala for the New Ripon Yeomanry, who had spent three months patrolling the borders with Sharfland.

The expansion of New Ripon's major exxport, its vibrant software development firms, is set to offer four thousand new jobs in the next three years. Those with the right skills looking for a place to move could do no worse than New Ripon!
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Thu Jul 12, 2018 6:01 pm

In my first year in the Raj Political Office I was fortunate to be posted to the Kaidailand and unfortunate enough to be posted to Lopburi, a one-lakh acre principality that straddles the Maeklong river. Her one very profitable industry is the manufacture of rubber tires, and her one ruler is the ebullient Ramapoon XII. He has no surname: Ramapoons have ruled Lopburi for centuries, and each first born son is simply called Ramapoon.

Nobody likes to work with Ramapoon XII. The only clothes he owns are basketball shorts and singlets that he rolls up to display an ever growing stomach, the aftermath of a diet made up of only pork belly and beer. Tattoos and gold rings cover his body - the prince, (officially a Chao), lives like an arriviste, but he is as blue blooded as anyone in the country. Hip hop blares from his official limousine.

But Ramapoon is not an idiot. He takes no interest in the rubber business, because he knows nothing about it. He's not a coward, either: in the Shangani war, when he was still the first born son of Ramapoon XI, he led the Lopburi Household Troops from the very front. There's at least one vapourwave album with his picture from that time as the cover. And the last, least obvious quality of Ramapoon - loyalty. He always pays his dues to the Rajah, always on time, and always more than he needs to.

During my time in Lopburi I was called upon many times to observe that Justice in this Estate was carried out in such a way that no burgher of Lopburi could make complaint to the Rajah, and so that the Rajah would never need to use His Forces to interfere in Lopburi. Lopburi, like many Estates in the hot-blooded Kaidailand, has a Royal Bailiff, who runs a Gaol. It is a stinking place next to the train station; the paint peeled away long ago, and it smells only like a gaol in Kaidailand can smell. The gaol is a charity, so its inmates live on the lowest quality rice and sometimes kangkung. It is not to hold people as punishment, but the reverse: for the safety of persons accused of some misdeed, so that they are not lynched on the streets. Once a persons name has been cleared, they are kicked out, but if they are condemned, they also have to leave.

Once I observed the Bailiff lift a man from the gaol. He had been there four weeks while he claimed a witness was coming who would clear his name, but when the witness arrived all he had to say was a string of explicities, so the man was booted out. In lieu of paying nearly ten ounces of gold, he agreed to be struck ten times with a cane by the man he had offended (and just offense, too; in a drunken stupour this chap had driven his car into his neighbours house), which had to happen in Lopburi's town square. After the Bailiff, in his khaki shorts and peak cap, brought the offender to the town square, a curious affair began, watched by hundreds of the towns citizens.

Upon seeing the cane the offender dropped to his knees, made the Kaidai wai, a symbol of hands clasped together, and begged in the most repulsive way for mercy, followed by a string of insults by the plaintiff, the factual accuracy of which the offender agreed with, and added to. The crowd expected some mercy, and some was given; in the end the plaintiff agreed to hit him only nine times. And then a form of bargaining began, in which two strokes were substituted for an ounce of silver each. The crowd made such noise in appreciation of the plaintiffs mercy that the Bailiff had to quieten them. But then the caning began, and the crowd went wild: roars and piercing shrieks at every stroke. The plaintiff walked away, his manhood intact, and safe in the knowledge that everyone knew would what would happen if they wronged him again. As the crowd began to disperse, the Bailiff looked at me and grinned, the smoke of a gigantic cheroot blurring around his sunglasses. He simply said - "Lopbuli style."
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:28 pm

"White People", Part One

For six years I lived in New Senland, in Landing specifically, with three other blokes; Gordon, from New Glasgow, Chiran from Khalistan and Paul from Douneray. We lived in a flat with four bedrooms and a mezzanine and a small kitchen and for those six years I shared and spent every moment of my life with those people. The first day we moved in, Gordon put a half inch scratch on the big wooden front door bringing his desk in, and six years later the Landing Corporation took eight hundred dollars from our deposit. The door was from the 18th-century and they had to bring in a specialist in old wood from North Point to repair the damage.

Chiran always used to say "white people." It was his saying; but he had got it from his father, who had got it from his grandfather, and so on. We verified this. Paul met Chiran with his father a year after we all moved out and swore on his mother's life that they once said "white people", together, at the same time. I don't know Chiran's last name, but he's a Singh now, I guess because his family made him do it, and he's a Captain of Yeomanry somewhere. But he always said white people. And when they charged us for that half inch scratch, he said - you got it: "white people!"

Me? I'm from Eulalia. Been there long? You bet. Great-grandpops came over from Praetonia and got ten acres of land because he brought ten Songian boots back to headquarters. But he didn't kill them. He was just good at finding stuff, and surviving. Married a Tagalog woman after the war and our people have been there since.

People from Eulalia can drink, apparently, but people from Khalistan can drink better. Chiran's the exception. We were all out once, at Settler's Bar (for some reason), and Chiran, three pints and four double whiskies in, nearly started a fight with some guy. For no reason. We had half the bar on each side. It ended because Chiran said "white people" at that man and he took offence, but in typical New Senland fashion they ended up calling the Watch. By the time they turned up both Chiran and his sworn enemy had had to shake hands and call it a day. The Watch turned up with them taking selfies together next to a pool table. So that's how Chiran avoided getting three good strokes from a lathi. But whenever we brought it up, he always used to say - "White people: troublemakers, the lot of them!"
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:36 pm

In 2018, the Duke of Battambang, long-loyal to the cause, was promoted to a Margrave. Actually, a Margrave is below a Duke in ordinary nobility, but to move from Duke to Margrave is a form of side-promotion, because it means more responsibility. It also means the right to place charges on ports of entry, which even Dukes are not necessarily allowed to do.

Rewind. Battambang is a small-ish estate; some seven million people, all-told. During the Shangani War, the Duke raised far more soldiers than he was required to from this tiny population, and led them to battle himself. During the Mutiny he once against mobilised Battambang's Yeomanry for the cause. These stout little people, the Battamese, gained some reputation as fierce light infantry. The Duke of Battambang is well received by the Sultan. When there were protests against the Sultan on his land in 2015, just after the war, the Duke's troops drove the protestors out with a fierce lathi charge.

In 2017, some of the Kaidai estates nearby fell into insolvency. The Sultan bought their debts, and with them their estates, but he decided to give them to the Duke of Battambang, as a reward for his loyalty. Since some of these estates lie on the Songian border, and others on the coast, the Duchy of Battambang was upgraded to a March. While the Margrave of Battambang may no longer be a Duke, and so technically is worthy of a lower grade, is responsible for arraying military forces for the protection of the Commonwealth's frontiers. And in times of war, he will automatically assume command liability over almost the entirety of the neighbouring estates.

In return, the Margrave had to raise some more troops to contribute to the common defence, so he paid for the training and formation of an armoured regiment, which he proceeded to name after his wife, a prominent local socialite; the Marquess of Battambang's Regiment of Horse.

The Regiment is finally raised on the large parade ground in Battambang itself. There's a huge party; many VIP are invited. Even local citizens of Battambang can come. Up to a thousand pigs are slaughtered for the feast, so at least there is free food. The Marquess is a famous lady, as her main job is to direct the Margrave's charities. So a lot of people have turned out to see and meet her. In the ground are arrayed slightly more than seventy main battle tanks, big and brand new Praetonian Covenanters, half a hundred smaller personnel carriers - these look like little forest animals next to the tanks, which are more like bears themselves; and nearly ten hundred men lined up. The flags are waving from lances.

The Marquess steps down, accompanied by her husband. The thousand strong Regiment bows as one; all flags are dipped at half mast. Somewhere from outside the parade ground comes a horse, it seems hours as it approaches, but its really minutes; and on top of the horse is a barrel-chested Sikh colonel, sword in hand. As he rides past the Regiment he raises the sword, held tightly to his chest, into the air, and waving around, yells; A-YOOOOOOOOOOOO! And by the Troop, the Regiment stands up and salutes. Then the colonel comes to a grinding stop next to the Marquess, the horse going from top speed to steady in half a second. Dust is thrown up, and stops an inch short of the Marquess' dress.

The Colonel throws his sword to the ground in front of the Marquess. The Marquess picks it up, and offers it back to the Colonel. Just then, there's a huge cheer from the crowd; the laying down of arms, and the offering of them again in a new service, signifies that the Regiment has been formally stood up. They will now stand guard on the southern march of the Commonwealth as the thin tan line.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:51 am

The Dukesardar rolled over. He could not tell why he had woken up, but then smelt breakfast, and guessed that was why. His wife was still asleep. He put a hand over - no, let her stay there. Gently he laid her hand on her growing belly. Number seven. A boy, they said. He grasped the head of the bed and lifted himself out, swung on a silk dressing gown and walked downstairs.

The rest of the family was awake. Ah, they were eating without him. He sat, and they greeted him, one by one, by the age; Good morning, Father!

Of course, Percy Singh did not say good morning Father, but he did say good morning. Percy Singh, Chief of the Dukesardar's Household Troops. Percy Singh, always there when you need him. Percy Singh who always woke before dawn and he always ate breakfast with the Dukesardar's family, and not with his own. It was touching, he thought, but it was of course because of business. Many things in Ambala happen before nine in the morning.

"No bacon for you, Father," his youngest, the little girl Heydia said. It was common knowledge that the Dukesardar's own father had eaten fifteen rashers of bacon and eight eggs every morning for breakfast and that was the reason he had died.

"Try to stop me," he grinned, and took five pieces. He looked at the plate. Am I really one third of my old man?

The plates were cleaned away and the children sent to their schools or tutors. One seat, for his oldest, for Sunny, was always laid out, but always empty. Away on Imperial Service in the Frontier Force. All that remained was Percy Singh. And every morning Percy Singh nodded toward the empty chair and asked: Any news? And there was rarely any. Nampata was boring now, apparently. No doubt Sunny spent most of his time in the officers bars of Nampatabad. Well, that was what he had done when he was young. Call it a tradition.

"Anything today?"

"Yes," Percy poured some more coffee and lumped in the condensed milk. "They want you to sign off on a hanging."

"Petty stuff. Why me?"

"Oh, it's this fellow. Er, what's his name. Bhajan. Man's a fighter. Should have sent him to the Yeomanry, but he won't follow orders. Beats people up for fun and doesn't care what happens. Crashed a car two months ago and had a go at the bailiffs who confronted him. Nearly killed one of them. He's only twenty one." The same age as Sunny.

"Magistrate's business," the Dukesardar said. "Not mine."

"Er, well."

"Well what?"

"It looks like Bhajan refused to go to Court and so they made him an outlaw. So he came back into Court and they told him that unless he can find someone to give him a loan, they'd make him an outlaw. Anyway, he couldn't find anyone. Big surprise, eh? There's not a single soul in this city who'd lend him a shilling, let alone twenty thousand for the car and the hospital bills. So he got called back into Court and now he won't go. They got him a place in a workhouse but the workhouse changed their mind when they read his record. Don't want him. Too violent, apparently. So he's been walking around the Canal Quarter for two days telling everyone that they're too scared to hang him."

"Are they?"

"Yes. But, also. Bhajan, twenty one, also has four children. Four!"

"If you don't have a job, you have a lot of spare time, Percy..."

"The local bailiff says he doesn't want to kill the father of four little ones. Maybe he's just saying that because he's scared. Or it's both. Good times make soft men, I guess."

"So that's going to be my Wednesday, then. I guess we know where he lives? Round up some Gurkhas and let's try to have this done by lunchtime."

"They're already waiting outside. I told the House to make them breakfast. Hope that's OK."

"Feeding Gurkhas," the Dukesardar said, standing up, "Is always a privilege."

---

On SEVENTH of DECEMBER, the petty hooligan BHAJAN GRANT ADJIT CHARAN of FORTY FIVE-FIVE KUMAR HOUSE, LANGLEY STREET, was hanged at BELLABY MOUND, for the Grave Accumulation of Felonious Activities that did lawfully warrant Outlawry. May his Soul be at Peace.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:10 pm

Right this moment

Smoke, fire, and wailing. The Captain of Yeomanry could hardly see more than thirty yards down the street. The white gas had done its work, and done it well. The wailing grew. Bodies came through the smoke towards him, khaki-clad jawans with gas masks and carbines, carrying people by the scruff of the neck. The lorries were getting fat with the catch. The Captain of Yeomanry closed his eyes, and listened.

There was the crackle of rifle fire. The yells, and the thuds. He could not smell the burning through his mask, but he could feel the heat wash over his face. He listened again and heard the sirens of the municipal fire brigade. Oh, it was chaos, lovely chaos: the kind of chaos that put order back into the world. What was taken with one hand was given back with the other.

He opened his eyes. Through the perspex haze, he could see dust, dust swirling up with the white gas. Soon it was all just dust, and then it was nothing but the remains of a street and the leftovers of a day’s work in the Nampataland, or the Far West, or wherever the hell they were now. What life had started, he had finished, with the tear bomb, the rifle butt, and the snap and crack of a Provost’s lathi. That was west Questers.

Six months ago

The little outhouse had been made with cost in mind. The cheap breezeblocks, put into a lattice shape, were getting old, and the weather had done them badly. The corrugated iron roof did nothing but make it hotter inside. A bluebottle buzzed. It was left to its own devices until it settled on a twig coming through the holes in the breezeblocks and watched through five tiny eyes.

The girl on the table was stark naked. Her eyes rolled back and little pits of spittle dripped from the side of her lips. The Priest ran a finger down her pink and pale chest until he found the place, and then poked at it. “There,” he said. “There is the spot.”

“She is drugged,” said the other man. What was he to the Priest? Few liked him. He had come months ago, with no money and no clothes on his back, begging for shelter. Now he was the Priest’s closest confidante.

“Yes. It is to kill her pain. She is ready for a new life. The girl shuddered, spasmed almost, and then settled. Her eyes shrank back further into her head, her pupils now moons. The Priest drew back her long yellow hair until it touched the dirt. “Part of her must touch the ground for it to work. She will bring life here.”

“How?”

“It is the old way. The ancients did it like this. They were not wrong. We have strived to plant this land and nothing will grow. This is what the ancients would have done.”

The knife was speckled with rust. The Priest ran it down her chest, from beneath her chin, put the flat of it against her nipples and prayed more, and louder, until he ran the side of the knife down to the point, bringing blood lightly, and swirled it up and in one movement plunged it into her stomach, and began to scream. The girl spasmed again. The drugs had taken her voice. The knife had taken her life.

Two months ago

Vyner Brown took one last glance at the big pile of papers. There was a whole court case there, evidence and all, with the nice big stamp of a famous magistrate. If this wasn’t the real deal, nothing was. He flipped through it again, with one eye out the window; two men were coming with big styrofoam boxes. Lunch. Brown thought about the case, and found himself not hungry.

Missing girl. Murder. Nampatan cult. A man on the inside, from the Provosts, keeping tabs on them. His escape, more than a miracle. The parents, elderly Jacksonville retirees, and their month long appeal to the Courts. How much had they released from their savings for this? He flipped through the papers again. Maybe they would know they were coming for them. Thirty thousand Guineas a piece for the posse? Not that much money for such a job, Vyner thought. But then it was a whole year’s salary for most people. Most of it would be blown in the musky bars of the northern towns, little dens so dark you couldn’t count your money out.

Too many things to think about. As the men came in with the lunch, his computer pinged. The girl’s father. Her bank had released her life insurance. For a moment, he was still. You could buy enough three oh three to fight a war with that.

Vyner Brown of Brown & Co Hunters pinched his nose.

Go time.

One week ago

The Priest looked out at the faces. There were many of them. Now, they were roaring. He turned to his side and saw his confederates, as white in the face as a Nampatan can get. He said nothing to them. They were not like him. They were tools. Tools run the course of a life and have to be thrown out.

His eyes bulged.

This was not it. Perhaps now his mortal frame would be shattered, but his spirit was more than bone, blood, or muscle. He began to laugh, loudly, and the crowd became silent. He thought to himself: I am not a man, you fools. I am more than that. I am more than you. I am pure cosmic life, the matter of the very beings – if you could call them that – that birthed everything. I am a God. You can never kill a God, not ever!

This was Questers, and this was Nampata, and there was no black bag, and no table of weights, and when the door fell his eyes bulged more and more, his hands behind his back fighting to be free, until – until the God was dead.

Yesterday

His body had hung outside the town of Marjavat for six days, but on the seventh day, it was gone. Words began to fly from mouths into ears. It was as the Priest – now, his name had been forgotten – had always said. He would one day be struck down, but then he himself would return, from the air and the earth, to them, and grant them the powers of the Old Gods.

It all seemed so true, for a short time. The People had slain the local magistrate, that young fool who had chosen to stay at his post while the town’s few burghers fled, taking their things with them. Ghostly chants filled the town’s narrow streets, the brown-skinned devotees painting themselves in turmeric and dirt and taking the day and night as their own. Goats and chickens were slaughtered, each zealot trying to out-play the other to see how much blood they could run to the dirt to bring back their Priest. But he did not come.

The People knew this orgy, this deranged frenzy, could not last for long. The closer they came to cataclysm, the harder they prayed and the swifter they cut the throats of the goats. The God would come. Their God would come.
[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy


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